Guiding steps help youth on their path to adulthood
From the desk of Assistant Chief Gary Batton
The Choctaw Nation develops and promotes programs to give youth the best advantages possible. Two of these programs – Solemates and Support for Pregnant and Parenting Teens (SPPT) – are at the forefront.
Youth Outreach’s Solemates initiated its fourth drive on July 26 with a goal of 287 pairs of shoes to buy. Volunteers were available at all of the Nation’s travel plazas for 12 hours on the 26th. They will continue to hold fundraisers at different locations and accept donations through this month to make sure children in the Choctaw Nation Youth Outreach program can hold their heads high as they walk to class.
For the last three years, there have been enough donations to extend the generosity to kids in other Choctaw Nation programs and communities. It’s a cause that brings us all together. The boys and girls have a new pair of shoes for the school year and they know there are people who cared enough to give.
Outreach staff also helped Soles4Souls provide enough shoes to meet the needs of more than 400 people during the non-profit organization’s visit to Broken Bow July 22. The afternoon kicked off Sole4Souls’ Barefoot Week as they traveled to different sites.
Youth Outreach will dive straight into a coat drive for the kids after Solemates is concluded. There will be dropoff sites at the hospital in Talihina and at the headquarters building in Durant. They will also be accepting donations during the always-fun OU/Texas tailgate party sponsored by the Nation every year at the west travel plaza in Durant as fans travel south.
Another Outreach program, SPPT, undeniably gives a better start for babies whose parents are still kids themselves. SPPT has just received the news of $3.9 million in funding from the Department of Health and Human Services. The staff will begin developing a six-month planning and training period so they can continue to educate young parents.
Teen caregivers are taken step-by-step through what to expect during pregnancy and the months following delivery. Parents as Teachers Curriculum is provided through home visitations twice a month.
This curriculum is designed to develop strong relationships through parent and child interaction as just one of the components of the project. Parents learn the importance of child development and reaching childhood milestones which promote school readiness. SPPT is excited about bringing a fatherhood coordinator to work specifically with fathers to increase collaborative efforts and communication between both parents. SPPT is building a support network of young families and fulfilling the Nation’s vision of a better future.
The SPPT program also teaches aspects of the Choctaw heritage through home visitation services as well as monthly group interaction. This will assist our teen population to embrace enriched traditions as they are developing their own parenting style.
For more information on donating to the Choctaw Nation Solemates or coat drive, please call Youth Outreach Director Paul Roberts at 877-285-6893, ext. 6063, 6061 or 6068.
To be eligible for Support for Pregnant and Parent Teens services teens must be expecting or have a Native American child under the age of 1, living in the Choctaw Nation 10 1/2 counties of the tribal jurisdiction, and must be 21 years of age or younger pursuing higher education. If interested in SPPT Program please contact Rebecca Morris, director of SPPT, at 580-326-8304, ext. 6057.